I used to think I hated sweet potatoes. I’d try one bite of sweet potato casserole, you know what I mean, the sugary marshmallow smothered diabetes in a pan dessert that pretends to be a side dish, and nearly gag with the sugar overload. I thought they were just wretched. Then one day I tried sweet potato fries and realized that the casserole recipe was to blame, not the beautiful, simple, naturally sweet orange potato/yam (the difference between a sweet potato and a yam is a whole different post that I must do some day but one soapbox is enough for this post!). So when I was assigned sweet potato casserole a couple years ago for Christmas Eve with Eric’s extended family, I laughed with mischievous glee at the opportunity to create a new, healthier sweet potato casserole, and test it on 50 unsuspecting relatives.
Fortunately, the casserole was a big hit, so I made it again this year for a holiday reunion with my father’s family. My mother hunted me down at the end of the night and grabbed my hand in eager anticipation. “Please tell me that sweet potato casserole was actually healthy. It was SO good!”
I assured her it was as I ran down the ingredient list with her; sweet potatoes, oranges, a little coconut milk, fresh ginger, cinnamon with chopped pecans and crystallized ginger on top.
She looked at me, her eyebrows raised in surprise. “Really, no sugar in the potatoes?”
I shook my head and then we had one of those moments that proves yes you are your mother’s daughter, no matter how much you tried to deny it as a teenager. At the same time, perfectly in sync, we both proclaimed, “I guess they’re called sweet potatoes for a reason!”
Sweet potatoes are simply, healthy (we’re talking 700% of you daily value for vitamin A and 60% for vitamin C!) and really quite lovely. It’s truly sad that they had been vilified in my mind for so many years. But I’m making up for lost time.
I share this recipe now because it’s not just a holiday recipe. I make this at least once a month now to serve with chicken, fish, salad, pretty much anything. With the ginger, cinnamon and coconut milk, it’s got an Asian flair that helps it pair wonderfully with Chinese chicken wings or Korean chicken thighs. But it’s also subtle enough to pair with lemon chicken, or even cauliflower macaroni and cheese for a lovely vegetarian and kid friendly diner.
This has become one of our go to healthy comfort foods and I’m so excited to share it with you. By the way, crystallized ginger is typically made with granulated sugar. It’s on my list to create a version using sucanat instead but you can omit the crystallized ginger and just use the pecans if you prefer.
Now, I have lots of catching up to do, so please share your favorite sweet potato recipes with me so I can try them all! (Feel free to leave links in the comments)
Healthy Coconut Ginger Sweet Potato CasserolePrep time: 15 minutes Cook time: 2 hours Total time: 2 hours 15 minutes Yield: 16-20 servings
- 3-3 1/2 lbssweet potatoes
- 1 tspgrated ginger
- 1/4 cupcoconut milk
- 1/2 tspground cinnamon
- 1 tsporange zest
- 1/4 cuporange juice
- 1/2 cupchopped pecans
- 3 TBSchopped crystallized ginger
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap sweet potatoes in foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast for 80-90 minutes until easily pierced with a fork.
- Carefully unwrap potatoes then pull off and discard the skins (you may want to wait until they cool a little).
- Place the roasted sweet potatoes into a large bowl and mash them up, mixing in ginger, coconut milk, cinnamon, orange zest and orange juice.
- Pour the sweet potato mixture into a casserole dish and top with pecans and crystallized ginger. Bake for 10-15 minutes until heated through.
Approximate cost/serving: Sweet potatoes are affordable year round, oranges are cheapest in the winter but still pretty affordable all year. I buy a ton of pecans in the bulk bins during the holidays when they go on sale. Coconut milk is cheaper at an Asian grocery store but you use such a small amount that you can really stretch the cost. The whole casserole cost me just around $3.50 to make. At 16 servings that’s just 22 cents a serving.
Vegetarian/Gluten Free: Yes to both and vegan too!